The final day then, the 20th of May 2010 and I look out of the bedroom window as I rise to a day of welcome sunshine. One exam left to carry out, an exam that had been delayed and referred for a long time along with a hard and difficult slog of a research project and my nemesis ‘Statistics’ posing just a month before in the form of another referred exam.
There had been a lot of hours work put in to preparing for today, many of those with my friend with her interminable patience and her caring, shrewd and intelligent ways. My partner too bore the brunt of my struggles as she helped me along the way towards today.
I take a run of some kind every single consecutive day and today was to be no different. With time of the essence and an exam at 1.30pm in the city, I strode out to the car, pulled the roof down to the sunny 8am morning air and drove to nearby Bestwood Country Park for a gentle jog along the path with the fresh, translucent green leaves and the birds loudly singing. I know I have a battle on my hands today. I am at ‘mile 24’ of a marathon.
I finish the run and walk around, cooling down in the little spot I know so well. I don’t really want to go home and face the day and it’s trials but into my car I slide and off we go back to Redhill. Breakfast and tea is taken though I have no appetite at all present today. Shower and dress and it is to down to business.
The exam today could be my one and only chance to complete the degree and this fact has weighed heavily upon me for a long time. The pressure of it has felt almost unbearable at times when I understand the sacrifices and hard work that have already been required to put in to this thing. I really don’t want to waste all that and no matter what anyone says to me, I can’t seem to alleviate this pressure.
Time drags on during the morning with some last minute revision that appears to be creating more harm than good, considering the tension it’s creating in me. Before long it’s time to drive into town with my partner and suffer that almost intolerable last hour or so, waiting, waiting. As my partner and I sit outside in the small quadrant of the Chaucer Building, suddenly a small head with familiar pointy ears pops up out of the nearby undergrowth. It is a tiny fox cub! My ‘totem animal’ and a sign of good fortune to come?
Before long, I’m sitting down with jangling nerves and weeks of apprehension at a small, inadequate desk in DICe Centre Conference Room with around fifty or sixty other ashen-faced individuals who are taking a different exam to me. The overly-curt and rude invigilator does little to buoy the mood of anyone in the room. Half-past one comes and I turn the exam paper over to find the exact two questions I had primarily revised and hoped for.
An hour passes with one question completed in five and a half pages of handwritten text and I embark upon the second question – surely if I can just remember what to write for this one I am in the clear – I can see daylight faintly appearing. Now with another five pages of an essay written and but a few minutes to go and I’m summing up, the tension is leaving me, I am looking forward to getting out of this room and feeling the fresh air again.
‘Time is now up. Please wait for your paper being collected and to be dismissed.’
I have an invite from the student next to me to join them at The Orange Tree for a drink but it’s not a beer I need right now it’s to taste that sweet essence of freedom. I alert my close ones to the good news that they have been wishing and hoping for – no doubt they were almost in the exam writing the questions with me in spirit. I wander off into the city under the sunshine and feel that huge, huge relief that nothing else can feel like.
A sandwich in Nottingham’s Old Market Square, then I meander up to Nottingham Castle and bite into an ice cream. It’s high time to give thanks and I walk the short distance to St. Barnabas Cathedral, a place that means much to me. The cathedral is always a place of beauty and love to me and today I find it dressed at its very best best, clad in attractive and sweet smelling flower displays for a festival the day after. I kneel and light a candle and give humble thanks for the many ways in which I have been looked after recently. It is a most poignant moment after some harrowing feelings which reached an almost unbearable crescendo in the middle of the day today.
Outside the Nottingham Playhouse bar at five o’clock is regaled with happy people leaving work and enjoying the fine weather with an al fresco drink or two post work. I sit and relax and can afford a smile at a job well done with the two people that have helped me beyond belief to achieve this day. A celebratory dinner is called for and we wend our way towards Le Bistro Pierre on busy Milton Street in the city. The restaurant offers its usual excellent food and drink and I savour my first Savannah Dry of the evening. There is only happy conversation tonight. The thought is not lost on me that the very last time I dined in this restaurant it was another very significant day. That was the occasion last September when I completed the Nottingham Marathon after that possibility had looked blown out of the water through a late injury having struck. History does indeed repeat itself…
A pleasant and relaxed evening concluded, I say goodbye for the moment to my partner and friend and head off for a last quiet drink at The Lincolnshire Poacher on my own to reflect on a momentous day. I feel so weary and drained of emotional energy and I’m so glad this day has passed with the only result that would have been palatable. It is now time for a new chapter and hopefully renewed optimism.
This collection of words but leaves me to to record a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to my partner for patiently tolerating me and guiding me through my apprehensions, low moods and general grumpiness, and my friend for her ceaseless, unswerving and loyal emotional and academic support of her friend. This is dedicated to you both.
Tomorrow is a new day.